This is one of those recipes that is rooted in the history of food and lets be honest who doesn’t love a cream tea. Clotted cream is incredibly hard to find in New Zealand and so I thought I’d share a couple of recipes that will get you started. It takes a long time to make so I’m sure it’s only a one off, but it is worth trying. There is also a cheat’s method to get a similar result at a fraction of the time.


This specialty of Devonshire, England (which is why it’s also known as Devonshire or Devon cream) is traditionally made by gently heating rich, unpasteurized milk until a semisolid layer of cream forms on the surface. After cooling, the thickened cream is removed. Since unpasteurized milk is not easily obtained, here is a recipe that comes close to the real thing. Clotted Cream can be spread on bread or spooned on top of fresh fruit or desserts. The traditional English ‘cream tea’ consists of clotted cream and jam served with scones and tea.





Clotted Cream



2 litres will net about 1 litre of clotted cream


Let the cream stand for 6 – 12 hours depending on time of year.


Cook cream in top of double boiler over simmering water until reduced by about half. It should be the consistency of butter, with a golden “crust” on the top. This will take a few hours.


Transfer, including crust, to bowl. Cover and let stand for 2 hours, then refrigerate for at least 12 hours. Check your fridge temperature as this needs to be cold.


Stir crust into cream before serving. Keep unused portions refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 4 days.


Cheats Clotted Cream


200g Mascarpone

200ml cream

1teaspoon vanilla extract

1 – 2 tablespoons sugar

Zest of lemon or lime


Mix together and chill until needed



Strawberry Jam


This jam has a lower sugar content than the more usual 70% and therefore it is quite delicate and should be refrigerated after opening.


600g caster sugar

100g caster sugar with 30g dried pectin mixed in

1 kg ripe raspberries or hulled strawberries

juice of one lemon


Boil the fruit and 300g of the sugar covered for 5 minutes, remove the lid and boil for a further 7 minutes until the temperature reaches 100˚c, skim the foamy surface.


Sprinkle the surface with the remaining sugar, pectin and lemon juice. Stir and cook for a few more minutes.


Check for setting point and when ready pour into sterilised jars.


To get the longest life possible, place the filled jars, with their lids tightly on, onto a wire rack in a large pan of cold water (with the water almost up to the lids). Bring the pan to the boil gently and simmer for 20 minutes from boiling point. Remove from the water and leave to cool. Dry, label and store in a cool dark place. The jam keeps well for a year.





There are a couple of tricks to making good scones, firstly preheat the oven for at least 15 minutes to be sure that it is very hot and secondly keep the handling to the absolute minimum, that means no rolling pin and no pastry cutters.


450g sifted self-raising flour

175g very soft diced butter

pinch of salt

3 tablespoons of vanilla sugar

4 eggs lightly beaten

sour cream to taste


By hand bring together the flour and butter until it resembles fine crumbs. Add the salt, sugar, egg and any flavourings that you want (sultanas, dates etc), and bring together with your fingers (try really hard not to squeeze or knock the air out).


Now add the sour cream to taste, it should just hold together. Too much and the scones will spread in the oven and too little will make them heavy.


Gently smooth out to desired height, about 3 -5 cm, and cut with a sharp knife with out putting too much downward pressure on. Bake in a preheated oven at 225˚c for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and sprinkle with vanilla sugar

Read More →


“Governing a great nation is like cooking a small fish – too much handling will spoil it.” (Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher)


The basic Chinese cooking principle is to have everything prepared beforehand: the vegetables washed, drained well and cut, the meat cut and marinated and the sauces prepared.  There should be an interesting variety of flavours, textures and colours; the Chinese believe in balance and harmony in every aspect of life, including food.  And don’t worry if you don’t have the correct Asian ingredients; improvise as the Chinese themselves did when they immigrated to the USA in the 1800’s.


China has four distinctive styles of regional cuisine (although some might break this down further), based loosely on geographical area.  Southern or Cantonese cuisine is the most well known, focusing on stir-frying, steaming and roasting a wide variety of meats, poultry and seafood.  We also have the Cantonese to thank for dim sum, literally translated as “touch your heart” – the custom of feasting on a varied assortment of pastries and dumplings that originated in China’s teahouses.


In China’s northern regions, with its climate of hot, dry summers and freezing cold winters, people opt for more solid, nourishing fare.  Instead of rice, noodles made from wheat, steamed dumplings and pancakes are popular fare.


The mountain-ringed provinces of Szechuan developed a cuisine of their own, heavily influenced by the foreigners journeying along the famous “Silk Route”.  Buddhist missionaries introduced locals to Indian spices, with chefs making liberal use of Szechuan pepper (one of the ingredients in five spice powder).


The cuisine in Eastern China combines elements from all other regions, using both rice and wheat.  The region is characterised by the liberal use of sugar to sweeten dishes, as well as “red-cooking” – where meat is slowly simmered in dark soy sauce, imparting a reddish tinge to the final product.



Stir-Fried ‘Velveted’ Chicken

This technique, passed on by Stephanie Alexander, ensures that stir-fried chicken has a lovely soft texture and it is so simple!


500 – 600g chicken breast fillets

1 lightly whisked egg white

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry

1 tablespoon cornflour

1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil



Mix all ingredients except chicken in a bowl.  Cut the chicken into strips, add to bowl and mix well, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Bring 1 litre water and 1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil to a boil in a wok or a wide frying pan, tip in the chicken and stir continuously for less than 1 minute until all the pieces look white.  Tip the chicken and liquid through a colander and shake dry.  Refrigerate if not cooking immediately.


Heat oil in a wok and stir-fry some aromatics (ginger, garlic, chilli, spring onions, garlic chives etc), toss in vegetables, then add ‘velveted’ chicken strips and any leafy greens.  The chicken will take only about 1 minute to cook through.



Basic Recipe for Fried Rice

A basic recipe that other ingredients can be added to, but the number of eggs will then need to be increased to three.


1 – 2 spring onions

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon salt

Pepper to taste

4 tablespoons oil for stir-frying

4 cups cold cooked rice

1 – 2 tablespoons light soy sauce or oyster sauce



Wash and finely chop the onion.  Lightly beat eggs with slat and pepper.  Heat a wok or frying pan and add 2 tablespoons oil.  When oil is hot, add the eggs.  Cook, stirring, until they are lightly scrambled but not too dry.  Remove eggs and clean out pan.


Add 2 tablespoons oil, then add rice.  Stir-fry for a few minutes, using chopsticks or a wooden spoon to break it apart.  Stir in soy sauce or oyster sauce.  When heated through, add scrambled egg back into pan.  Mix thoroughly and stir in onion.  Serve hot.


An aromatic wine like a gewürztraminer is perfect with this, try an Alan Scott Marlborough Gewürztramine


Read More →

Fighting the so-called epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes is now one of the most important issues facing our communities. Now I really don’t like the idea that our personal choices over what we eat can be described as an epidemic, that said I do believe that the “disease” is in the food processing industry.

In the old days of our youth when we visited Granny there would be a beautiful plate of homemade biscuits, we’d all have one and enjoy the moment. Today a packet of shop bought ones will appear and we eat the lot. It seems like a small change but the effect is so damaging, now instead of a small number of biscuits lovingly made with simple and pure ingredients, we have a complex chemical cocktail in very much larger quantities. So lets take a step back in time and go back to the lovingly simple, after all a little of what you like makes life so much more enjoyable.




Makes 16


225g sifted plain flour

110g fine semolina

110g caster sugar

225g softened salted butter

Vanilla sugar for dusting



Put flour, semolina, sugar and butter into a food mixer and using the biscuit beater on SLOW speed beat until you have a soft dough.  Roll out to 1cm thickness and cut into circles, squares or shapes with cookie cutters.  Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170˚C for 30 minutes.  Remove and transfer to a cooling tray and dust with vanilla sugar.



Chocolate Chip Cookies


350g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

115g unsweetened cocoa powder

3005 plain chocolate chips


225g dark brown sugar

115g soft demerara sugar

225g softened unsalted butter

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla essence



In a medium bowl combine the first group of ingredients.  In a large bowl cream the butter, sugar and vanilla.  Scrape down the sides, add the eggs and blend well.   Gradually fold the dry ingredients into the butter mix (do not over mix).  Drop tablespoons of the dough onto a slip mat and bake in a pre-heated oven at 170˚C for 18 – 20 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack and serve.




Read More →

This is one of those wonderful salads that can be served hot and then sneakily popped in the lunchbox the following day to make you’re workmates jealous.

Israeli couscous is the one that looks kind of like the old pudding that we used to have at school and uncharitably called “frogspawn”, but trust me it is no relation. It is really a type of pasta and like all pastas takes flavours really well, in this case the chorizo and smoked Paprika add a Moorish heat that matches the season. When buying Chorizo be sure to check the chilli content equals your tolerance as some can be very hot and be brave with the smoked paprika, it brings the Spanish edge to the whole dish.





Israeli Couscous Salad with Chorizo & Spanish Smoked Paprika


250g Israeli couscous

1 medium onion, finely diced
1 cup pesto dressing
250g (about 2 large) chorizo sausages, sliced and pan-fried
100g sun-dried tomatoes

1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut into halves
100g red capsicums, de-seeded, char-grilled and roughly sliced
1/3 cup Italian flat leaf parsley
1 cup whole olives

Salt & pepper to season


Pesto dressing:
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup toasted pine nuts

1 tbsp lemon juice

½ clove garlic, crushed
½ cup grated parmesan
½ cup fresh basil
2 tbsp smoked paprika
1 cup olive oil



Blend pesto ingredients, set 1 cup aside and refrigerate remainder to use on another occasion.  (Will keep for up to 2 weeks in fridge.)

Heat a little olive oil and fry onion until translucent.  Add the couscous and brown on all sides.  Season with salt and pepper and add boiling water to cover.  Cover the pan and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.  Drain.

While couscous is still warm mix with pesto, then fold through the rest of the ingredients, season to taste and serve, sprinkled with chopped Italian parsley.


Read More →


Read More →

Happy New Year to all, I hope you had a wonderful time and the transition back to reality isn’t too painful. For us we had the pleasure of spending Christmas and New Year with a wonderful family of expat Kiwis who now live in the Basque region of France. We had so much fun playing with traditional French cuisine in the glorious setting of Waihi beach that I thought I’d share this recipe with you.


Now I know what you’re thinking, I too used to view snails on a dinner plate with squinty-eyed skepticism – for all the usual reasons I suppose – their sliminess, their squelchyness, the havoc they wreck in the garden. So it would be safe to say that I was no great fan of the snail in any way, shape, form or location up until reluctantly trying them in France in a delightful country bistro many years, when I experienced a minor gastronomic epiphany.


They don’t have to be slimy rubber bands slathered in butter and garlic, they can be exquisite, delicate and exciting. Now the snails that we ate over the festive season were of the precooked, in a jar variety. Which is always a bit of a risk but got me thinking about New Zealand and with a bit of research, I can’t find anyone that is organically farming them here, except for Silver Trail Snails in the Hawkes Bay who have sadly recently stopped.


So what to do, should we just forget about a piece of culinary genius or should we expand our minds and shock our friends by trying something different, I think you already know my answer to this, and who knows we might even encourage someone to start farming them.





Escargot a la Bourguignonne


Cooking Liquor


½ L white wine

½ L chicken Stock

3 shallots

1 carrot

Large Bouquet Garni

Pinch of salt


50 shelled snails

50 snail shells

4 tablespoon soda

4 L water


Buerre de Escargot


35g shallots, finely chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped Parsley

2 Cloves Garlic, crushed

350g butter, softened

large pinch of salt

freshly ground Pepper






Simmer the shelled snails in the cooking liquor for about 8 minutes then leave to cool in the cooking liquid.


Meanwhile, boil the empty shells in the water and soda for five minutes, drain and wash in plenty of clean water, then dry in the oven without letting them colour.


Mix all the butter ingredients and pop a small amount in each shell, then add a snail and a little more butter on top. Place on snail plates or an oven tray covered in rock salt (to hold them upright) and heat in the oven without letting the butter brown and serve piping hot.


If you are using precooked canned snails then cut the simmering stage







For me a good complex Chardonnay hits the mark here, Try the Octopus Label 2011 Wild Chardonnay from Karikari Estate Wines, the most northerly vineyard in New Zealand.


Read More →

I happened to be in Sandfords the other day to buy some Yellow Fin Tuna, sadly a rarity since most of our best fish seem to find their way onto an plane these days. Where foods concerned I think the French attitude of eat the best, export the rest is maybe a better option.

Anyway, to get off my soapbox for a minute, while I was there I noticed that there was some perfect looking Blue Nose winking at me. Blue Nose is that piece of fishy perfection that becomes pure white as it cooks and handled correctly has a great firm texture, to me it is one of the prime fish.

Now to the herb crust, what we are looking for here is a smooth herby green coating that hugs the surface of the fish almost like a carpet. The trick is to put the crust on the fish just moments before it goes in the oven and while the crust is still frozen, that way it will defrost then cook without breaking apart. Try using different herbs if you wish, or maybe some lemon or lime zest, the trick is to create the flavour that you like. As a total aside, I also love the herb crust method with racks of lamb, use the same technique but add rosemary and green olives to the food processor.





Fillet of Blue Nose with a Soft Herb Crust and a Champagne and Chive Sauce

Serves 8

8 Fillets of Blue Nose, skin off

1 glass white wine (optional)

Soft Herb Crust:

175g fresh white breadcrumbs (preferably brioche)

80g Gruyere cheese, grated

50g chopped fresh parsley

5g chopped fresh thyme

125g unsalted butter, softened


Champagne & Chive Sauce:

3 shallots (or 1 medium onion), finely chopped

¼ leek, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon olive oil

300ml champagne or white wine

300ml fish stock (or chicken stock)

3 tbsps fresh chives, chopped

300ml double cream

Lemon juice to taste





Place all the ingredients into a food processor and whiz until thoroughly mixed.  Spread out onto a greaseproof lined tray and open freeze.  Cut into portions and place one on top of each seasoned fillet of blue nose.  Place on baking tray, pour wine onto baking tray (optional) and bake at 180˚C for 10-12 minutes or until topping is slightly golden and fish is firm to the touch and opaque.


Meanwhile prepare sauce: sweat shallots, leek and garlic in the olive oil.  Add stock and champagne to the pan and reduce to quarter of original volume.  In a second pan, reduce cream to half the original volume.  Add stock mix to cream and hand whisk.  Add lemon juice, chopped chives and seasoning to taste.



Wine Match


Ata Rangi wines from Martinborough are famous for their world beating Pinot Noir, but don’t ignore their 2012 Sauvignon Blanc as it is superb.

Read More →

This is a great dish for dinner parties and really isn’t as hard as it looks. The chicken fillet steaks are guaranteed to amaze and your friends will be wondering what sort of chicken they came from. The chicken breasts are cut and shaped to look exactly like a beef fillet steak, otherwise known as “tournedos” and really should be done the day before to give the chicken plenty of time to hold its shape.


Now to the slightly tricky area of pigs caul, this is the lacy lining of a pigs stomach and is used almost like Glad wrap. The neat bit is that as you cook it will practically disappear leaving the shape you want with the mystery of how you did it. Pigs caul is quite hard to find but you should be able to order it through your butcher, remembering to leave yourself enough time to soak it for 24 hours in cold water before you use it.


If Pigs caul is unavailable or a step too far for you, then make up the dish as per the recipe but without the caul. Once set, cut into steaks, season top and bottom leaving the foil and paper wrapped around. Cook in the frying pan sealing the top and bottom and finish in the oven for 12-15 minutes. Once rested, peel away the foil and paper; the Steaks will still hold together.




Chicken Steaks with Chestnut Mushrooms and a Sage and Lemon Sauce


Serves 4


6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, chopped

100g pigs caul, soaked in water overnight

25g softened butter

225g chestnut mushrooms



Lemon and Sage Sauce:

3 shallots (or 1 medium onion), finely chopped

¼ leek, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1-tablespoon olive oil

300ml champagne or white wine

300ml chicken stock

3 tablespoons fresh Sage, chopped

300ml double cream

Lemon juice to taste




To make the “steaks” take a large rectangle of foil and top with a similar sized sheet of greaseproof paper. Brush the paper with butter.


Squeeze out the pigs caul to remove any excess water and open out on top of the buttered paper.


Remove the small fillets attached to the underside if the chicken breasts and set aside. Now slice through the breasts so that you are left with thin escalope of fundamentally the same size and place side by side on top of the caul. You are covering and area of approximately 20 cm by 15 cm which when rolled will cut into 4 “tournedos”.


Now turning to the small fillets, place in a food processor and blitz to a paste with the sage and seasoning, using a wet palette knife spread the past across the top of the chicken breast, this will help it all hold together.


Carefully roll it all together into a cylinder shape, being careful to keep the caul on the outside and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

When ready for cooking time, pre heat you oven to 200˚c. The chicken “roll” can now be cut into 4 steaks, remove the foil and paper being careful to leave the caul wrapped around and for added security tie one or two lengths of butchers string loosely around.


Seal to a golden brow in a frying pan with a knob of butter, place on an oven tray and season. These chicken Tournedos should take 10-12 minutes in the oven. Once cooked and firm remove from the oven and leave to rest for about 5 minutes.


To prepare sauce: Slice the mushroom and sauté in a hot pan with the remaining butter until tender and well coloured. Remove from the pan and dry on kitchen paper. Now sweat shallots, leek and garlic in the olive oil.  Add stock and champagne to the pan and reduce to quarter of original volume.  In a second pan, reduce cream to half the original volume.  Add stock mix to cream and hand whisk.  Add lemon juice, cooked mushrooms, chopped sage and seasoning to taste.


Remove the strings and present on wilted buttered spinach with the mushrooms and sauce spooned over.




This dish cries out for a Viognier. This is a sneaky little devil of a grape that is remarkably hard get a decent crop. Mills reef haven’t made one this year but if we all start asking they might just try again. To be honest their last Viognier was an absolute cracker

Read More →

I’m always banging on about eating in tune with the seasons and this dish is a classic example, you see lamb doesn’t develop really great flavour until the little fellows have had a few months off the milk and on grass. What you get at this time of year is the absolute best compromise between taste and texture, and when you marry that to the tomatoes that are just going wild in the garden at the moment, you have a taste sensation.


The Idea of French cut rack of lamb is to have all the sinew carefully cut away and the bones scraped clean. The sinew is chewy and if the bones still have stuff attached they will go black. Cook them whole and then carve just before serving, a rack of lamb is usually 8 bones and what looks great is to carve after every second one and put two pieces together, intertwining the bones. Have fun.



Lebanese Marinated Rack of Lamb With Pickled Avocado and Tomatoes


Serves 4


2 racks of lamb, trimmed and French cut

1 small bell pepper

1 small red chill, deseeded

2 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon of chopped fresh mint

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

pinch of saffron threads

1 tablespoon olive oil





Chop the pepper, chili, garlic, mint and spices together until the mixture is almost a pulp, stir in the olive oil, then rub this mixture into the meat.


Put in a Ziploc plastic bag and refridgerate for 2 – 3 hours.


Seal in a hot frying pan or on the BBQ and then roast in a preheated oven, 200˚C for approximately 10 minutes. Rest for 10 minutes and serve with the pickled tomatoes and Avocado and a green salad.


The pan juices make an excellent base for a sauce




Pickled Tomatoes and Avocado




  • 2 cups
cherry tomatoes
  • 3 Tbsp.
avocado oil
  • 2 
shallots, minced
  • 2 
jalapeños, sliced thinly
  • ½ tsp.
cumin seed, toasted and ground
  • 1 tsp.
mustard seeds, toasted and ground to a paste
  • 4 Tbsp.
lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • 3 Tbsp.
cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp.
brown sugar
  • ¼ cup
chopped mint
  • ¼ cup
chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp.
plus a pinch r salt
  • 3 
ripe, Fresh Avocados





Place the tomatoes in a glass or ceramic bowl that can withstand a little heat. Season the tomatoes with the salt.

In a large fry pan bring oil to a simmer over medium high heat, just below smoke point. Add shallot and then jalapeños. Fry off until tender, about two minutes and then add the cumin and the mustard seeds. Toast for about a minute and remove from heat.

Let cool slightly and then carefully add half of the lime juice and vinegar and then pour this over seasoned tomatoes. Add mint, parsley and the salt. Let the tomatoes sit at room temperature for the flavors to mature while you cook the Lamb.

Slice the avocados in half lengthwise. Slice each half lengthwise again, gently removing seed. Peel and discard the avocado skins and slice avocado into ¼-inch slices. In a medium bowl toss the avocado with the remaining lime juice and season with a pinch of salt. Add them to the curried tomatoes and toss gently.



This dish just cries out for a full bodied pinot, so for me that has to mean a Bird Wines Big Barrel Pinot Noir.


Read More →

The most important meal of the day is breakfast from the point of view of kicking your day in the right direction. Starting the day right will give you the energy to get through to lunch without ruining your healthy lifestyle with snacks.


This recipe is so simple and was invented by the Swiss doctor  Maximilian Oskar Bircher-Benner in the early twentieth century. Contrary to commonly held beliefs at the time; Dr Bircher pioneered the idea that a balanced diet of raw vegetables and Fruit should be used as a means to a healthy life and to heal the sick

Through his work Bircher-Benner changed the eating habits of the late 19th century. Replacing way too much meat and white bread with fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts. Now I know that this is starting to look like the Kellog story, but there are key differences, the primary one being that a multinational corporation doesn’t own the recipe and part with it purely for profit.



Fresh Bircher Muesli

Use whatever fruit is in season, or in winter top with poached fruit compote.

Serves 4


2 cups rolled oats

½ cup raisins

1 cup apple juice or orange juice

1 cup coarsely grated apple

½ cup natural yoghurt

Juice of 1 lemon

½ cup sliced peaches and nectarines

¼ cup mixed berries

2 tablespoons honey



Place oats, raisins and apple juice in a bowl and soak for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.  Add grated apple, yoghurt and lemon juice to mixture and mix well.  Spoon into serving bowls and top with fresh or poached fruit.  Drizzle with honey.




Read More →